theirs is the kingdom

perhaps you have heard of the 21.

it’s been hard not to.

since the video flickered through all of social media and we watched the heads of the holy severed.

and just like that… theirs was the kingdom.

there are several beautiful tributes to the Christ-like lives of these men.

these people of the cross.

I believe sweet ann voskamp writes one of the loveliest on her own blog here.

but this is not meant to be a beautiful tribute (though I’m glad those have been written).

this is a memoir of terrific and hideous grace- a call to take up that cross upon our smartly dressed backs and live the real life of stooped-down, muddy love.

because sometimes persecution doesn’t just come from ISIS and overseas and those “scary unsaved”.
sometimes it comes from those who ought to be the hands and feet of our Jesus.
those who ought to be bearers of the cross.
those who claim to follow Jesus, but don’t look a whole lot like Him.

the church.

ugh.

it’s true, and it’s sad… no, it’s so, so heartbreaking.

this ugly misuse of anger and authority, fueled by pride, strengthened by the “american dream” (which stands in direct opposition to the Jesus dream), and the saddest thing of all?
not all of us experience it.

no, that wasn’t a typo.

the church has fallen so far from its’ original purpose, that if we are ever to crawl and climb our way back to on-our-faces service and sacrificial soul posture and heart-cry devotion to Jesus, those of us who fight for it (who say no to materialism, who take a stand for truth, who call our brothers and sisters out on their ungodliness) will be persecuted by our own kind.

we will be persecuted by our friends, by our fellow leaders, by the people we look up to, by the sweet little old church ladies.

you see, we humans hate being told we’re wrong.
humans hate changing.
especially when we feel we’ve got it. we understand it.
we’re Christians after all.

yeah, but do we look like Christ?

and so we will be called judgmental when we remind our sisters of the Jesus-reality.
we will be told we are prideful and that we think we’re better than others when we call out our brothers, living in sin.
we will be isolated and gossiped about and unpopular in our own circles for giving no leeway to the hard callings in Scripture.
they will hate us for interrupting their distractions and calling them to righteousness.
we will be falsely accused as an excuse for them to whip their lashed-out bitterness on us.
defensiveness turns people cruel, and we will bear the brunt of their outward-facing guilt.

but as humans who claim to follow Jesus, we give up our rights to these things. we suddenly must live an examined life. this is how this Christian-thing works.
this is the part these persecutors do not like.

in the words of a brother in Christ, zach hunter, “It’s a unique skill to be able to say very simple things in needlessly cruel ways.”, and this is what we will face, head-on.

this is what we are called to!

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
// Matthew 2:11-12 //

it wasn’t the “scary unsaved” who crowded the streets, begging for the Son’s blood to be spilled.
it was the religious leaders.
the respected ones.
the ones who had it all together.
the ones in authority.

do not be surprised!

I struggle so hard with this.

I hold myself and other Christians to the high, high standards of Scripture.
I examine my life and the life of the church according to the life of Jesus.
I expect grace-given holiness from myself and from those who claim to be like Him who I follow.

and it seems that so rarely I find it.
we all fail, so I needn’t find it always, but…

what bothers me more?

I rarely find that it bothers the church.
the church is okay with their lukewarmness.
they kind of like it.
they carry a great big paycheck instead of the cross.
it’s comfortable, and they can still have great big house and lots of junk and chase the american dream while chasing Jesus.

what?!
that’s not how it works!
that’s actually impossible.

and it makes me really angry. 

how can they not care?
how do they not realize the seriousness of this?
how are we not all sacrificing everything for the sake of the gospel?
how are we holding onto pride, instead of opening our hands to grace?
how are we reconciling this in our hearts?!

it actually makes me sick to my stomach at times.

oh, dear reader, please hear my heart cry in these words and rise up to be unashamed cross-carriers of the gospel of Christ.
no matter if you are friendless!
no matter if you are hated by your own!

SO WAS JESUS!

I have been blessed beyond measure with a family, one husband, and four friends who I know, with absolute certainty in the depths of my heart, take the gospel in all seriousness.
who fail terribly on many occasions.
who repent to the Lord in true humility.
who have been persecuted by their own.
who struggle in the deepest places of themselves with hard and holy things.
who are willing to sacrifice it all for the sake of the glory of God.

each of us are incredibly different…
passionate, logical, hardworking, truth-speaker, encourager…
and yet our common ground is God’s great glory and grace.

the committed are few and far between, friends.
but they do exist.
join the ranks, friend.

in the end, it’s all that matters.

in the end, theirs is the kingdom.

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